Letting Siblings Shine in Their Own Way

I used to think it was a great idea that our three boys were taking up the violin together. However, as our oldest son, Elijah, began to show significant ability as a violinist, Edan and Titus got left behind. It hasn’t mattered so much for Titus, who started off much later on than his older brothers. However, the disparity in talent became very evident between Elijah and Edan. As a result, Edan was less inclined to push himself. He liked learning to play the violin, but he fell under the shadow of Elijah.


Not too long ago, Edric and I decided that Edan ought to pursue piano playing. After all, he had expressed interest in doing so, and this would be an area where he could excel apart from his brothers, especially Elijah. Elijah wanted to take it too, but we told him, “You focus on violin for now because you are very gifted at it.”

Later on, we may allow Elijah to take up piano as well. However, we’ve allowed Edan to get a headstart to build his own confidence as a musician. In fact, Edan has been incredible at playing the piano. In the first two months, he exhibited so much progress, his teacher had to find him pieces to play that weren’t part of his piano curriculum. Edan felt accomplished and affirmed in this area of musicality. As a result, he dedicated hours every day to learn his pieces and practice, something he never quite did with the violin. While he still takes up the violin, he now has something that he can do well and better than Elijah at this point in time.

Recently, Edan performed on the piano for extended family and they lauded him for his talent. This encouraged him all the more to pursue piano playing.

Edric and I aren’t trying to advocate our sons’ competitiveness in a negative way. But we also want to give each of our kids the opportunity to shine. We believe they each have God-given abilities that should be explored and developed so they can be a blessing to others and glorify God. However, Elijah can intimidate his siblings and de-motivate them from trying because he is older and more advanced in many areas. Although we don’t compare them, we can tell that they compare themselves with one another. So it’s been healthy for Edan to grow in a skill where he sets the bar.


I’ve also had to tell my kids in the past, “You all have different gifts and abilities. Some of you will be better in one area than others and vice versa. So be thankful when your siblings are good at something. Each of you is good at something.”

I guess the tricky part is discovering what area our kids are good at, which takes careful observation and years of studying what they enjoy and where they excel. And sometimes, it takes some experimenting, like trying out different musical instruments or sports programs to see what clicks with them.

For a long time, I insisted on Edan playing violin because I believed in the cognitive benefits of learning this instrument. However, I also had to recognize that not all children fit the same mold and it’s our job as parents to help them uncover their uniqueness and talents. After all, our children will shine most and enjoy themselves most when they pursue what God designed them to. This means that we have to keep seeking God’s will for our kids and heeding it. It’s very tempting to insist on our dreams for our children, our wants. But our dreams and our wants for our kids cannot be better than God’s plans for them. Therefore, we have to prayerfully go to the Lord for the wisdom to discern what He wants for our children so we can encourage them in that direction.

I’m so thankful to the Lord that Edan has found something that he loves to do and something that he is good at. It brings me deep delight to see him enjoy sitting on the piano bench, engrossed in learning or playing his pieces. Our home is filled with a new kind of music. I also believe that someday, God will use this musical talent for His glory if Edan faithfully practices and hones his piano-playing skill. And maybe, if God should elect it for my kids, all of them will make music together, as a team, with each one providing his or her own unique musicality to the mix!

From Arch Enemy to Friend

My daughter, Tiana, and her cousin, Teegan, are only months apart. Teegan is the big American version and Tiana is the petite Filipina one. There is something about those Arian bones! The difference in height and size between them is significant.

But I don’t really want to talk about genetics. I wanted to write about their journey to friendship.

Three years ago when Teegan came to the Philippines to live, she was excited to be with all her cousins, the majority of whom are based in Manila. Tiana was looking forward to Teegan coming too but when they encountered each other, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped.

Teegan came across very strong and dominant and Tiana was totally frightened by her imposing nature. Unfortunately, Tiana backed away and Teegan was bent on asserting herself all the more in the face of weakness. She semi- terrorized Tiana by scaring her with growling sounds that made Tiana cry. It was her attempt to play but she also knew it wasn’t the kindest thing to do. She intentionally terrorised Tiana to get a reaction out of her.

Thankfully my brother, Peter, and sister-in-law, Jennifer, tried their best to tell Teegan to stop bullying Tiana and they disciplined her when she did. Teegan began to improve.
Tiana also gained greater confidence as we let them play with one another more frequently.

The fighting between became more and more infrequent. It was good for both of them to learn how to adjust to one another. As for me, I had to relax as a parent and refrain from developing a critical attitude towards my niece or her parents. I love my brother, Peter, and sister in law, Jennifer. I didn’t want this issue to come between us. After all, Teegan was only 3 at the time and had a lot of maturing to do. So did Tiana.

For as long as Teegan wasn’t pushing her or hurting her I figured that they would both grow out of this and get along eventually. It was a team effort on the part of all the parents involved, too.

We used positive reinforcement. I would say things to Teegan like, “Tiana likes it when you share with her. That is very nice of you.” Or I would tell Tiana, “Don’t be scared of Teegan. She wants to play with you and be your friend.”

We also implored positive training. We demonstrated to both Teegan and Tiana how to relate to one another and play together.

It took about a year for them to get one another. And lo and behold, the two have become such good friends. They are together as often as possible and they have loads of fun! Teegan is such a sweetheart today. She embraces Tiana every time she sees her and makes her cards for her birthdays. They have make believe games and cute little conversations about girl stuff.

It’s a joy to see them relate to each other so well, especially because I remember the season when they were like arch enemies. I remember my mom sharing a principle to me that has always encouraged me about people and the capacity to change. She said, “Don’t see people for who they are today. See them for who they can become in the Lord.”

Whenever we encounter difficult, trying people, it’s tempting to reject them right away or avoid them to safeguard ourselves. Who wants to willingly make themselves susceptible to getting hurt?! However, not all difficult, trying people are beyond hope. And we may miss out on the opportunity to discover just how amazing these people can actually be, especially when the Lord gets a hold of their hearts.

Teegan changed significantly in terms of gentleness and Tiana changed significantly in terms of confidence because they are two young children who have a relationship with Jesus. He continues to transform them daily just as He will transform every person we know, including ourselves to become the persons he wants us all to be. But we have to believe that with Him in our lives and in the hearts of others there is hope for positive change.

Philippians 1:6 tell us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” If the work is started by Christ we can be CONFIDENT that He is committed to making our kids, other people and ourselves more and more like Himself. So let’s be encouraged, and let’s not be ones who zone in on the things we don’t like about those around us. Let’s be the ones who recognize that Jesus transforms people!

Why Our Kids Don’t Play Pokémon Go

I don’t want to sound like a legalist who is imposing her convictions on others. However given the number of queries I have received about whether parents should allow their children to play Pokémon Go, I have decided to voice out my personal opinion. This is a take or leave it thing.

For our family it’s not even about whether Pokémon Go is an acceptable game for our kids to play. There will always be a game that becomes a fad that captures the attention of young people and well, grown ups, too who are into gaming.

The majority of apps and online games out there for entertainment purposes are not sinful per se. Rather it’s what these games do to us and don’t do for us that makes them questionable. My brother, Peter, has spoken to audiences about this on numerous occasions because he was a gamer. And he admits that there was a correlation between his productivity as a person, the health of his spiritual life, and his involvement in gaming. The seasons of his life when he was least productive and least on-fire for the Lord were the seasons when he was hooked on online computer games. Today, he gives talks on how to help children break free from addictions to computer games. He is still a techy guy and he still likes games, but he understands which games are unhealthy for him and he avoids these like the plague.

So let’s talk about Pokémon Go

Is Pokémon Go addicting? Yes it is. Just like any other game or activity that hooks a child in to a realm of make-believe, false power, and challenges that have no end, Pokémon Go will certainly capture a child’s interest and consume their attention. But Pokémon Go is addicting the same way other games are. It’s nothing special in this sense.

There was a time when my kids played Minecraft. Somehow, they convinced me that it was an educational game so I allowed them to play it. Not too many weeks into it, my kids started to act distracted and they had the classic, “game eyes” — the glazed over zombie look. In fact, Edan admitted, “Mom, even when I’m not playing Minecraft, I’m thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it.” Maybe Edan has more addictive tendencies, but if a game invades the spaces of my children’s tender minds like that one did, it’s clearly not healthy for them. So the boys agreed to delete the game and they’ve been very happy about that choice.

Is Pokémon Go demonic? Some articles have been circulating about the game being demonic. Personally, I don’t have the time to research all the characters behind the game, so I can’t assume they are. However, if there was even the slightest possibility that the influences behind the game could be demonic then why risk exposing my children to it? This isn’t about legalism. It’s about being wise.

The Bible tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Will I go around preaching to parents, “Why do you let your kids play a demonic game?” Probably not. But, it’s my personal conviction to keep my children spiritually safe. This might sound extreme to others but our kids understand that my intentions are for their good.

Will Pokémon Go help a child to grow in wisdom, stature, favour with God and favour with man? Luke 2:52 gives us a descritpion of how Jesus matured and flourished as a child. The passage covers the four areas of wisdom (the ability to make choices that please God), stature (the development of abilities and gifts, as well as physical growth), favour with God (learning how to obey God and live for Him), and favour with man (learning to be a blessing to others and get along with others). Since I want what is best for my kids and I want them to grow in Christ-likeness, then I would rather they pursue activities with their precious time that contribute to their total growth from a Luke 2:52 perspective. Time is a priceless commodity and I want my children to recognise that anything they do during their discretionary hours has an impact on the persons they will become. As Galatians 6:7 puts it, “We reap what we sow.”

Whenever there’s a game or app that my kids are interested in, Edric gives them the Luke 2:52 guideline. If our kids can’t truthfully say that the game or app celebrates the areas that God wants them to grow in, then they usually decide on their own that it’s not beneficial for them. But this has to come from a place of conviction — where kids value time enough to steward it and recognise that they are called to Christ-likeness. Sure, they may be unpopular for being clueless about Pokémon Go, but that isn’t a value they live for.

I just asked my sons, Edan and Elijah, “Why aren’t you interested in Pokémon Go?”

Elijah’s reply was, “Well, you chase around mythical monsters everywhere. It seems like a useless activity.” He’s saying this as he is programming an app. So it’s not as if our family is anti-gadgets or technology. Our kids use their gadgets to build things that they can eventually monetize, if God leads them in that direction. And yes, even the time spent doing these things can become an issue so we help them manage this lest that becomes an addiction, too!


Edan’s comment was, “Pokémon Go is mind-dumbing.” Honestly, he doesn’t know enough about the game to assert that. I’ve heard some positive things about it. Kids go outdoors, they learn geography, and collaborate with others, and they become adaptive to new technology. But I’m glad that Edan has an opinion that favours doing more “fruitful” things. After all, there are better ways to enjoy the outdoors. Go play outside, for goodness sakes. Travel to experience geography or research about places and countries. Join a cooperative to do collaborative work with other kids or let kids play board games together. And I don’t think adjusting to new technology is an issue for kids today so that’s not a real plus for Pokémon Go.


There is a sensitive line here that I’m crossing for sure. I might get some hate-comments but I hope you understand that this is not coming from a place of criticism. I don’t think parents are evil if they let their kids play Pokémon Go. However, it is necessary that we all evaluate the kinds of games our children are into, whatever games they may be. Are these adding value to their lives? Are these causing them to grow more in their love for God and for others? These are worthwhile questions to ask about any activity that takes up a lot of time in our children’s lives. Whatever occupies their time is sure to have significant influence and control over them as well.

 

I Just Want to Be With You, Mommy

 Girls, girls, girls. I’m not used to dealing with the drama of daughters. For a good many years it was just boys and their havoc-wrecking testosterone. Yet now that my two youngest girls are moving past the baby-ish stage, it’s evident that I’ve got two “emotionals” on my hand.


Growing up, I wasn’t an emotional child. I was feminine and girly, but I leaned towards processing circumstances cerebrally. Plus, moodiness wasn’t allowed in our home. My mom emphasized this often. She modeled it, too. Furthermore, I compartmentalized my emotions as a post-trauma method of coping with what I went through as a teenager (for those of you who know.) So I always believed that a person should be able to switch off the emo-button.

This has been both a good and bad thing. It allows me to focus on tasks. Yet the down side is, it makes me less sensitive to people’s emotions, which can be problematic when you are a wife and mom, and a friend! Edric has told me numerous times that I need to improve on listening and hearing him out, and not dishing out unsolicited advice, quoting Bible verses and telling him how he should process what he is going through. By God’s grace, I’m improving but I have to make a conscious effort to be more tender and gentle as a wife.

I have to tell myself…Be a blessing. How can you minister to Edric? How can I meet his need?

As a mom, I’m having to balance firmness and softness with my girls. They feel things so intensely and for longer stretches of time than my boys do. Tiana goes crazy over fluffy toys and animals. When I see her clasp her hands and breathe in deeply like something is the cutest thing she has ever seen while squealing in delight, I just don’t get it. Sometimes, I admit that I would love to be able to remote-control my girls into toning down their hysterics.

I remember telling Catalina the other day, “Stop crying. That’s enough.” She wasn’t being fussy, she was just lingering in the sentiment of being slighted by someone. Can a three year old really do this? Switch off? Apparently it’s difficult to do. In between her sniffling, she struggled to say, “Buuut I I I I can’t ssstttooop.” The tears kept falling. And then she just looked terribly adorable. (She is a toughie but like Tiana, she’s emotional).

Thankfully, I have Edric to help me change in this area and a sister like Candy, who is amazing at relating to people. She goes out of her way to make others feel appreciated, loved, and important. She used to be the one to elbow me (literally), or pull me aside and say things like, “Hey, I think you need to call so-and-so and reach out to her.” Or, “Hey, I think that person wants to spend time with you. You should connect with her.”

And I would be like, “Yes, you are right. I should.” She was like my emotional conscience! Well, she’s gone back to the U.S. so I’m slightly handicapped.

Yet, God is using my wonderful, emotional daughters to transform me. Praise God! There’s hope! Just because it’s not in my personality to be tender and soft, I must consider their needs as more important than what’s comfortable for me. This might mean extra hugs and kisses, and a milder tone of voice. It may mean sitting on the bed to read princess stories for the nth time. Or, it may involve extended craft times together. Sometimes it may also mean patiently waiting for them to work through their feelings and then processing circumstances with them after they’ve been given an opportunity to air their thoughts and opinions. Whatever it is, I’ve got to remember that they long to have a relationship with me in a way that no other human person can fulfill and that’s a precious, precious thing.

Plus, it’s not wrong to be an emotional person. I told this to a lady I have been counseling for a couple of weeks. God uses sympathetic and empathetic people all the time. They tend to be great at understanding others which is badly needed in this world.

My girls happen to need more TLC and it’s my role (and privilege) to make them feel secure and special. So last night, when Edric reported to me that Tiana was teary-eyed when she said, “I just want to be near mommy,” as he tucked the girls into bed, a stimulus-response light bulb switched on in my head. Stop what you are doing, Joy, and go to your daughter.

I was in the middle of a big project that I was stressed out about but God encouraged me. Your daughter needs you. She’s your priority.

Tiana is entering into some sort of phase as a girl. The other day I attempted to articulate how I was feeling about it to Edric by saying, “You know, I’m struggling with my role as a mom to the girls, especially Tiana. It’s like she’s looking to me for her sense of identity and I’m not sure what to do. It’s a challenge.”

Well, it doesn’t matter that it’s a phase that confounds me. I have to develop better parenting skills with my girls and I have to adjust. After Edric delivered Tiana’s message about wanting to be near me, I slid the laptop off my lap, got off my bed and peeked into the girls’ room. Tiana and Catalina were snuggled up under their covers but still awake. I went over to hug Tiana and lay by her side.

“Are you okay?”

She shook her head.

“Is something wrong?”

“I just want to be with you.” She had tears in her eyes.

“Okay, I will stay with you.”

She was relieved.

Across the room, I heard a heard a whimpering Catalina who wanted to be noticed. So I picked her up, held her in my arms and brought her to Tiana’s bed where I sat for a while. I stroked Tiana’s head to calm her down and prayed with the girls. When I was pretty confident that they were emotionally settled, I returned Catalina to her bed and kissed them both good night. Tiana requested for an extra hug, which I gladly obliged to. They slept soundly and woke up as their happy selves this morning.

My productivity may have been disrupted yesterday evening but I should never think of my kids as an interruption. They are my priority. Sure, there are seasons when I have to get projects done and I can’t drop everything for them. But as much as possible, and because I control my time, I can certainly postpone things like finishing a keynote presentation if my kids S.O.S. me for attention. And it’s amazing how even little doses of attention and affection deposit big feelings of love in the hearts of my kids.

I was watching my girls jump around playfully this morning and I thought to myself, I’m so thankful and grateful for them. Each of my kids is a gift from the Lord not only because children are so delightful, but because God uses each of their personalities – Elijah, Edan, Titus, Tiana and Catalina — to humble me and teach me how to live and love.

Love is not about what’s easy or comfortable for me. It’s about sacrifice and commitment to meeting the heart-felt longings of others. It’s about seeking to change and improve in order to grow in love. It’s not about controlling others for my benefit. It’s about being a channel of Christ’s selflessness even when it’s so much easier to be self-serving. It’s about waiting for people to bloom in God’s time and in His way, and leading them gently into this becoming.

It’s impossible for me to be this person if Christ wasn’t present in me. Time and time again I see that I am a work in progress as a mom. I want to be and I strive to be better, but often I fall short and it can be discouraging to be confronted with my imperfections. However, my hope is in Jesus who doesn’t let me be, who sends me sweet angels in the form of daughters to show me beauty, to show me love in a form that I’m learning to appreciate and recognise as necessary in this world.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

 

 

 

God Finds Our Children

Our children have their own timetables when it comes to their faith journeys. We can do our best to raise them in the ways of the Lord and to teach them God’s word, but at the end of the day they have to make the choice to follow God themselves. Sometimes this reality frightens me. I have to fight the fear and the worry that plague my thoughts with questions like, What if they don’t follow God? What if they fall away from the faith?

Even if Edric and I do our best to model Christianity to our children and teach them biblical truth, it’s no guarantee that they will walk the same path. We can’t force them to, either. Choosing to make Jesus their Lord and Savior is a personal thing. It’s between them and the Lord.

We share the gospel with them as soon as they can understand it, which is usually about 3 or 4 years old. However, we don’t know EVERYTHING that is going on in each of their hearts. Even though we spend loads of time with them because we are homeschooling parents, there’s a lot to them that remains unseen.

This is one of the reasons why we started taking one kid at a time on trips out of the country. Earlier in the year, we brought Elijah with us to Dubai. During our last trip to Australia and New Zealand, we took our second son, Edan. Titus will be traveling with us soon as well.

Elijah and Edan appreciated having our undivided attention when they had their turns traveling with us. In fact, Edan admitted that he enjoyed feeling like an only child! Over the two weeks that we were away with Edan, we got to know him better…

  • The way he thinks – very methodical and concerned about time and details. He always wants to know what the plan is.
  • His favorite things – ice cream, plants, animals, games, good books, playing the piano
  • His fears – the dark, what others think of him
  • What makes him feel special – time with us, words of affirmation
  • His gifts – leadership, charm, bringing people together, responsibility, taking care of others
  • His weaknesses – pride, impatience, easily hurt, harboring grudges
  • What makes him frustrated – conflict with his siblings and blocked goals.

My favorite discovery about Edan happened in Australia, during the Hillsong Conference. Edan joined the kids’ events so he was away from us for most of the conference days. I wondered how he would cope since he was alone and outside of his comfort zone. Well, he did just fine. He made new friends and he enjoyed the services, games, and activities.

I asked him, “What did you learn during Kidsong?”

He was quiet at first (typical Edan) as he processed what he was about to say, and then he replied, “I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed to praise God…like raising my hands when I sing to him and singing with all my heart. I shouldn’t worry about what people think because I should be focused on worshiping God.”

Of coursed I teared as he told me this. Anytime my kids talk about their spiritual lives, I get emotional. It’s the most important aspect of who they are, and I feel so happy every time they trust me enough to tell me about their triumphs and struggles in the faith.

A few weeks after our trip, Edan also told me that he encountered Jesus in a special way during one of our Sunday services. He began by stammering, “I don’t know how to explain it, mom. Something happened. I was sitting in church and I felt God’s presence. I gave my life to Him again. It’s like I really understood what it meant to be a sinner, and that Jesus died on the cross for me, to save me.”

I was so excited, I grabbed him and pulled him close holding him in my arms as we both cried tears of joy. I said several times, “I am so happy, Edan!”

My greatest joy as a mother is knowing that my children love God and want to please God. Someday they will be on their own to make choices without Edric and I around. My prayer is that they will find God and discover how much He loves them, that they will give their lives to Him not because we ask them to, but because they wholeheartedly desire to.

The comforting news is this: God is the one who finds our kids. He seeks them out one by one and reveals Himself to them. As parents, we need to do our part to condition our children’s hearts to be receptive to God when this encounter happens. This involves modeling a love for the Lord, being intentional about discipling them, and providing an environment that encourages them to seek after Him. However, it gives me peace knowing that God loves them more than I ever will. He is more concerned about their relationship with Him that I will ever be.

Therefore, I need to relax as His divine work takes place in their hearts. I can’t control my kids decisions when it comes to choosing to give their lives to Him, but God is in control. He is faithful. He is present. He is moving. He is speaking to our children.

Let’s pray that they will hear Him. Let’s pray they will see Him. Let’s pray that they will choose Him!

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” 3 John‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭

Big Rocks, Small Rocks – Time Management for Busy Moms

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I wear many hats as a woman. There’s being a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, a discipler to women, a counselor, speaker, writer, and every now and then I have “jobs” or projects that I accept for added income. Recently, I’ve been asked by other moms, “How do you manage your time?”

I’m not writing this because I’m the best time-manager. But I have learned, through the years and with the help of my husband, to be more intentional about the activities that I commit to. My mom gave me great advice, too. She said, “Think of your activities as rocks – big ones and small ones. If you were to fill a jar with rocks, you would put in the big rocks first and then fit in the small rocks around the bigger ones. If you do the small ones first, then you won’t have space for the big ones.”

The reality is we are all in various seasons of our lives as women. Some of us are newly married, young mothers, raising older kids, or we are empty-nesters. Each stage comes with certain priorities and stresses. I am somewhere in between one end of the spectrum and the other. My fifth child is nearly 3 years old. She is no longer breastfeeding which means life is starting to feel easier and more “manageable.” Whew!

Whatever stage I find myself in, I have to identify the big rocks in my life (The things that only I can do, that I’m responsible for, that I can’t delegate to others):

  1. My walk with the Lord
  2. My husband
  3. My kids
  4. Homeschooling
  5. Home-management
  6. Exercise
  7. Discipleship / Ministry
  8. Writing
  9. Relationships with family – parents, brothers, and sisters
  10. Helping out with Homeschool Global

What are my small rocks? (The order doesn’t matter for these)

  • Speaking
  • Counseling
  • Jobs and projects that earn income
  • Relationships with friends
  • Hobbies

When my big rocks don’t come first (and in the order I wrote them above), I experience anxiety and stress. There may be occasions when certain needs are urgent – a crying infant who has pooped in her diaper vs. bringing my husband his butong pakwan because he asked for it. This is where both of us have to be flexible and understanding of one another.

I praise God that Edric was supportive through all my pregnant and breastfeeding years. He knew these stages weren’t easy for me, so he adjusted his expectations, too. The other blessing I want to praise God for is that I got to be a stay-at-home mom by the time our third son came along. I had to wait eight years, but it happened nonetheless, which alleviated me of the burden to contribute monetarily to our family. Whatever season I have found myself in, I’ve tried, as soon as possible, to revert to the order of priorities I listed above for my big rocks.

What are your big rocks? Every woman’s are different, but my strong suggestion is that you’ve got God, your husband and kids as first, second, and third. Some weeks ago, Edric and I were counseling a couple that was in bad shape because the husband was caught in infidelity. Although the woman is not to blame for her husband’s sinfulness, they both acknowledged that the demands of her work kept her from prioritizing his needs. Up till this day it’s a struggle for her to quit her job in order to look for one that is less hectic for herself and less damaging to her relationship with her husband. She is perpetually stressed out and exhausted but believes that her job is a “bigger rock” than her marriage. My heart goes out to her. 

I’m not saying that women have to quit their jobs. That’s not the point. The point is that we need to evaluate whether our jobs are worth sacrificing the priorities of spouse and children for. Is the corporate route the best option, for example? I’ve witnessed so many talented women direct their abilities and creativity towards income-generating businesses that allow them the flexibility and time to meet the needs of their husband and children. Therefore it’s not impossible to find something worthwhile to do that doesn’t take the place of our more important relationships.

After settling which rocks in our lives are the heavy-weights, we have to think through how we schedule our days and weeks around those rocks. It took me years to actually come up with a schedule that I could commit to. Thankfully, my husband, Edric, is a stickler for scheduling everything. So, his good influence on me finally rubbed off and I came up with a weekly routine that has been sensible and sustainable. I can’t share my exact schedule here for safety reasons, but I will give you an example of what my schedule generally looks like (the days may not match the actual):

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This schedule is my template for the week. Since homeschooling is like my day job, I safeguard my weekday mornings to get this done (except for the day when they have classes). I used to have my kids in music and pe classes on two different days, plus they attended a morning coop during a separate day of the week. Hardly any quality homeschooling got done as a result. My new schedule gives them one day out of the home for their classes. While they are busy, I take advantage of this day by doing errands (like going to the grocery) and meeting with people.

Some variations in my schedule may happen when there are urgent needs that must be attended to, when I have projects to complete, or when we have social events. But generally, this is it. Interestingly, when I don’t follow my weekly routine and have too many activities outside of the home (especially ones that end late at night), I tend to get sick. So having a schedule that isn’t too hectic keeps my body from breaking down, too. It’s actually necessary for me to keep to predictable cycles. Maybe it’s my age!

Edric and I also share one calendar that is updated everyday. His very able assistant intelligently manages this calendar for us. She is amazing! Keeping one calendar on our phones and devices has improved our communication as husband and wife. I used to get frustrated when he would book engagements and tell me about them the day of! Now I know what to expect and how to prepare myself. Furthermore, I also don’t confirm speaking engagements or appointments that eat into things like family time, meals together, evenings, or Sundays unless I refer to our calendar and run them by Edric first.

If you are involved in ministry, you may want to read on about the other tips that have helped me with time management:

  1. MINISTER ACCORDING TO YOUR LIFESTAGE.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are called to evangelize and disciple others no matter what our lifestage as women. The question for moms, especially those with younger children, is how do I obey God’s purpose for me without compromising my priorities? How can I creatively integrate my lifestage with the call to minister to other women?

From the very beginning of our marriage, Edric and I had a discipleship group. We belonged to one and we started one, too. At one point the group we were handling got too big and people began to get married and have children. This is when their priorities started to change. As for me, I was often pregnant and/or breastfeeding, working part-time, and homeschooling.

At some point, I remember having a conversation with my mom where I said, “I don’t agree with the discipleship model of CCF (our church). It’s not right that young mothers are expected to disciple others when they are caught up with raising young children. Isn’t our primary ministry our kids?”

My mom, in her very gentle manner, listened and offered the best advice. She said, “Why don’t you disciple women in a way that incorporates your lifestage?” Brilliant, mom!

So I started a playgroup with the young mothers in my group. Since the moms could bring their children, they prioritized these playgroups. We would meet in the park and our kids would play while we had accountability and encouraged one another in the faith. This playgroup eventually evolved into a more formal cooperative of moms who now support each other’s homeschool journey. At present, we are on a break but will resume again in September. It has been a great way for me to reach out to the moms in our discipleship group and I’ve been so blessed by the moms who have stepped up to teach and handle classes for the kids.

Another challenge came when Edric and I moved into our new home. This geographic change affected the dynamic of our original discipleship group of men and women. Many of them found it difficult to trek all the way to our side of the metropolis. I felt very discouraged when this happened because our desire was to open up our home for ministry. But the traffic made it impossible to get people to our place in the evenings. Thankfully, I still got to see most of the women during our Homeschool Coop, but I did miss the old days, too, when we could gather as couples and cram together in our apartment.

Not wanting our new home to go to waste, Edric and I started another couples group for neighbors in our subdivision. We may have moved home locations but this didn’t mean that serving God by discipling others had to stop. Getting together with neighbors made it easy to stick to weekly meetings.

It has been almost two years since this group began. We rotate houses to give couples the opportunity to host and facilitate the sessions. The kids are welcome as well which means we don’t have to leave them behind every week.

  1. DO MINISTRY AS A TEAM

Another way to integrate lifestage and ministry is to mount events or speak at gatherings where Edric and I can serve as a team along with our kids. Edric and I share the burden of preparing singles for marriage, reaching out to young couples and families, and talking about homeschooling. Edric also feels called to educate people on financial literacy. So we help out with three big events in the year that are mounted by the Family Ministry of our church – Before and After I Do, Family and Finance, and Parenting — and other events that are related to these topics.

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Whenever our kids can be included in our talks, we let them prepare their own testimonies so they can experience ministering along side us. This simplifies our lives by allowing us to be together while we serve and direct our efforts toward the same things.

  1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO (IF YOU SAY NO FOR THE RIGHT REASONS)

Sometimes, saying “No” is necessary, even at the expense of disappointing others. I learned this from my father who has laser focus for what he does. As a result he has been very effective at time management and accomplishing much for the Lord. Although it’s hard to turn invitations down, Edric and I realized that there are many people out there whom God can raise up to do a better job that we can as speakers. Even though people may ask us to speak doesn’t always mean we are the most qualified or most prepared to do so. God’s work will never lack His resources, people being one of them. So turning down an invitation doesn’t mean that an organization will be disadvantaged just because we can’t say yes. On the contrary, God will supply the best person(s) for the task.

What’s the criteria for saying, No? Edric has a template with specific questions that his assistant asks the person or organization inviting him or us. Then this data is inputted into a spreadsheet which calculates a percentage rating. Anything below 65 or 70% is low priority. I know it sounds pretty nerdy but it helps to assess whether an invitation is aligned with his (our) goals and focus.

  1. SYNC YOUR PASSIONS AND YOUR PURPOSE

I shared earlier that all of us are called to evangelize and disciple others. However, life stages pose a challenge to this call because some of us are newly married, pregnant or breastfeeding, or raising young kids (and some of us are doing this without any household help). These seasons demand a lot from us.

After I gave birth to my fourth child, Edric encouraged me to start a blog. When Edric proposed the idea he also asked his dad to help me set up my site. Papa (my father in law) came up with the name, “Teach with Joy.” I thought the blog was a great idea! After all, I was feeling more homebound than ever and I wondered how I would be able to reach out to women to minister to them (outside of my discipleship group).

I decided to make this site a venue to connect with the hearts of women all over the world with the gospel of Christ. My desire was to give people a glimpse of what it is like to be a wife, mother, and family that follows Christ. My prayer was that women would respond positively and with openness to the honesty (my mistakes and failures) and to the joy they read about.

Ever since I was young, writing was a passion of mine. My old writings were dark and emotional. However, as I matured in my faith, I wanted to write about what God is doing in our family and share practical insights and tips that can help women be the best version of themselves. As I merged my passion to write with the purpose of ministry, God blessed the effort. I’m humbled to be able to receive countless private emails and messages from women all over the world who want to know more about Jesus, thank me, or connect with me and tell me about themselves. Each email and message is a delight to read and respond to.

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The great thing about blogging is that I’m still accessible to my husband and kids. Furthermore, it has opened doors that I never would have anticipated – to endorse products that celebrate family and to be given the privilege of greater influence.

Recently, Lifestyle TV taped a series of interstitial shows to be aired in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s a show called Joy of Living where I get to interview women about their life journeys. The project came as a surprise. I never expected to receive this opportunity!

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When the producer pitched the idea to me I had two requests. One was that I get to tape at home for most or all of the shows. I didn’t know if they would say yes. But I was willing to let the project go if they refused because I didn’t want to compromise my time with the kids. Well, they approved this request! I was overjoyed! The second request was that I be given the voice to speak about my faith. They let me do so for as long as I didn’t come across as preachy. That was fine with me.

God has given each one of us women abilities and capacities that are unique to us. Some of you have talents that are out of this world amazing! You may wonder if these are going to waste as you prioritize your spouse and children. My encouragement to you is to trust in God’s timetable. Put Him first, your spouse and kids next, and then let Him reveal to you what other aspects of your life need to count as “big rocks.” That’s where good time management begins – by asking the Lord what really matters, seeking to know what His will is, and then obeying it. As you do so He will not waste the gifts or dreams He has given you. They come from Him after all. In His beautiful time and way He will welcome and encourage their emergence for His glory!

If you feel lost because good time management eludes you at present, don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose hope. You are probably a young mom whose got one hand attending to a toddler, another arm breastfeeding a newborn, and you’ve got to cook a meal for your family tonight, and maybe you have a job that you are juggling, too. I’ve been there…It gets easier…Trust me.

Isn’t it a relief to know that God doesn’t expect perfection from us? Instead, He wants us. A deep, intimate relationship with us where we experience His presence, grace, enabling and peace.

In the meantime, let’s do what we can to identify our big and small rocks, exert our best effort, and trust that God will multiply our capacities. He will supply us with the resources and abilities we need to accomplish what He wants us to at this stage in our lives. We need to believe that He wants us to succeed at being good time managers and He will surely help us!

 

Teaching Kids About Healthy Sexuality

The question “When and what do I teach my kids about sex?” comes up in parenting huddles, where moms gather together and air their concerns about how difficult it is to protect our children from the sexually-charged world we live in. It is seemingly impossible to completely shelter our kids from the images and messages that blatantly celebrate sexiness and sex outside of marriage.

Moms have opened up to me about their children being exposed to pornography at ridiculously young ages. My own kids constantly feel the need to turn their eyes away from magazine racks that exhibit half-naked women on their covers in places like groceries, hardware stores, and bookstores. These places are supposed to be family-friendly places! However, our children’s eyes are hardly “safe”. It’s also difficult to sit through television programs because the ads between shows aren’t always wholesome for kids.

Let’s take a realistic look at how challenging it is to raise our kids with healthy views and convictions about sex and sexuality:

– Nearly 60 percent of sixteen to eighteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly one third of thirteen to fifteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly 60 percent of sexually active teenagers do not use a method of birth control, and the same number of kids have never once talked with their parents about birth control.

– Ninety percent of kids surveyed believe in marriage, yet 74 percent say they would live with someone before or instead of marriage.

– Thirty-one percent of teen girl virgins say they have felt pressured by a guy to go further.

– Sixty-seven percent of teens who have had intercourse wish that they had waited.

– Over half of the young people in America claim to have had oral sex by the age of twenty-two.

– The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is eleven years old.

– Three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur each year among teenagers.

– In the summer of 2000, Twist magazine did an online survey of ten thousand girls, over half of whom were under fourteen. Amazingly, 24 percent of the girls who said they were virgins responded that they engaged in oral sex.

– There are fourteen thousand acts of intercourse or sexual innuendo on primetime TV. (Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns pg. 17 – 18)

Even if our kids are growing up in a morally toxic world, the good news is we don’t have to resign to this reality. There are several ways that we can be part of the solution to help our children grow up with healthy views and convictions about sex.

First, we need a mindset change. Sex is an amazing thing! Sex is God’s beautiful design for creation, intimacy, and pleasure in marriage. Why have we let the media, wrong experiences and inherited perspectives distort this truth so that we are ashamed and embarrassed to talk to our kids about it?

Unfortunately, this means that most kids don’t have conversations with their parents about healthy sexuality. They also hear confusing, negative messages about sex from their peers, role models or media. When it comes to the “sex talk”, many parents simply avoid the discussion, wait too long before educating their kids on the topic, or they simply tell them, “Don’t do it!” The message that religious organizations often pass on is that sex is a BAD thing so don’t do it outside of marriage. As for the rest of the world, it’s all about safe sex practices — how to do it without getting pregnant or STDs.

We need to have positive conversations with our children about sex, letting them know that it is neither ugly or dirty. It is wonderful! So wonderful it’s worth protecting and safeguarding for marriage.

After having five children, I realized that all kids, at some point wonder how they physically arrive into this world. Some kids are curious at younger ages, others at later ages. By the age of 7, our kids pretty much understand what sexual intercourse is and why it is beautiful in the context of a husband and wife relationship. Edric and I have this conversation with them early.

We answered (and continue to answer) their questions without substituting cutesy names for their private parts. Here’s a summary of what we cover…Girls have a vagina. Boys have a penis. There’s nothing immoral with those words. The two parts fit together according to God’s design so that a husband and wife can express their love for one another in the most intimate and special way. When sperm comes out of the man’s penis and goes into a woman’s vagina, one of the sperms will meet the egg inside the woman to form a baby. When you get to a certain age, you will start to find a girl beautiful or a boy handsome, and you will want to share this experience with them. But God wants you to save this for your husband or wife because it’s such a special thing.

Whew. That wasn’t too tough, was it?

We try to have these dialogues in a straightforward, non- squeamish way. Edric is better at this than I am. Sometimes I get uncomfortable going through the details. But I praise God that we are on the same page about educating our kids on sex in marriage early. If they hear unbiblical views on sex from friends or media, they can cross-check this info with the truth we’ve told them.

It’s also important to explain gender differences early. Because we’ve helped our kids to properly identity their body parts and the differences between female and male anatomies, they understand gender distinctions as early as 2 years old.

I remember asking our sons one time, “How do you know you are a boy?”

One of them blurted out, “Huh? I have a penis!” Like, hello, mom, did you intentionally ask a dumb question? Of course he didn’t say this. But I loved that his answer was so confident and uncomplicated.
On a comedic note, when we moved into our home and our 4-year old daughter walked into her bedroom, she announced, “No boys allowed. This is the vagina floor!”

Edric and I busted out into laughter. Basically she meant, “This area is for girls only!”

Beside teaching our children gender distinctions, we also need to tell them that their sexual organs are to be treated as sacred and private, educating them on what is appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to being touched. 

So many kids today become victims of sexual abuse, molestation and even rape. Tragically, most of it happens in their own homes and they get confused about whether it is wrong or not. If these is anything that makes me angry, heartbroken, and terrified at the same time it is that children are so commonly violated in this way in this country. About 60 to 70% of the people who come to me for counseling can recall at least one instance when they were abused by someone, and usually it was a relative. And they aren’t coming to me for counseling for these past experiences per se. However it comes up during the session as I ask questions or as the person opens up to me about their history.

My struggle as a mom is not to live in fear and pass on this fear to my kids because of my own past trauma as a rape victim. Yet at the same time, I want them to be aware that this can happen to them. So they need to protect themselves.

Edric and I tell them, “Don’t let anyone touch your private parts. These are private parts. Other people aren’t supposed to see them or touch them. And if anyone ever does that and tells you not to tell anyone, you can always tell mommy and daddy and we will protect you.”

Here’s a great book that teaches kids how to protect themselves. Available through @belugadreams


We also tell our household help not to touch our children’s private parts, unless they are bathing the little ones. (By two or threeyears of age children can be taught to wash themselves.) We teach our little daughters to dress modestly and cross their legs, too, so they aren’t exposing their underwear. We tell them, “Sit like a lady.”

As parents, we also have to model for our children how a woman and man interact with one another, relate to each other, and how we fulfill our roles within the family.

Furthermore, dads should spend time with sons to mentor them and moms should spend time with daughters to mentor them. Edric took Elijah to Mt. Apo when he turned 13 so he could have a rite of passage into young manhood. During their climb they were with a seasoned mountaineer and his son, too.

After four days, Elijah came home scruffy, stinky, and weathered! He learned how to have grit, to push himself and survive difficult weather conditions. He also watched Edric very closely. On the mountain, they spent time worshipping the Lord, sharing the gospel with other climbers, and reading Elijah’s letters from family members for his 13th birthday.

Not too long after this event, Elijah wrote a touching letter to Edric that included these lines, “Dad, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man because I need you to be my role model. I really look up to you and I want to be like you…” With happy tears, Edric and I glanced at one another and smiled. What a privilege to meet this need in our kids!

Our children’s first concept of gender identity comes from us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, they are observing us and looking to us to understand what it means to be a man or woman according to God’s design.

At the same time, we need to affirm their worth in the Lord because relationships at home have a significant effect on the choices our children make and will make, especially when it comes to sexual purity.
My dad used to tell my sisters and I something like this: Each of you is like a “Rolls-Royce.” Think of a common car versus something like a Rolls-Royce. Everyone gets to drive a common car. Not a Rolls-Royce.

What he meant to say was, “No test-driving allowed! Don’t let guys treat you like a common car because you aren’t!”
Granted, it was totally a guy thing for him to compare us to cars, but the principle behind his advice was important. He wanted us to realize that we are special, that HE THOUGHT WE ARE SPECIAL, that guys should treat us as special. More importantly, he demonstrated what it means to be treated as special by being available, encouraging, and discipling us. (My mom was the same way.)

Very recently I was counseling a beautiful lady who suffered the after-effects of a painful breakup and bad relationship with a guy who was controlling and manipulative. When I asked her about her family culture, she told me she never felt good enough or important to her parents. So she thought it was normal for a guy to treat her badly, too. After all, she was brought up in a family where she had to prove her worth in order to be loved. Her father also made her feel incompetent and incapable. She tolerated her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend for a miserably long time until God opened her eyes to see that marrying this guy would have been a huge mistake. Up till this day, as an adult, she longs to have a loving relationship with her parents but she feels misunderstood and rejected so often by them so she finds it difficult to ask them for advice when it comes to boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

As I listened to her, I was convicted to put extra effort into strengthening my relationship with my kids. They need that security from Edric and I, and they need to be able to trust us with their hearts so we can influence them to make wise choices.

In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, author Meg Meeker writes that parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol…Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention…76% of teenage girls said that fathers influenced their decision on whether they should become sexually active…

It’s only by God’s grace that my parents met this need for affection and the desire to be valued in my siblings and me. As a result, we weren’t as eager to seek out this need in the opposite sex. Okay, so I floundered the most in this area because I actually had one boyfriend in high school and it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. But my sisters and brothers, wow. My youngest sister’s first kiss was at the altar! She made it very clear to her boyfriend (the only guy she had a serious relationship with) that she had strict boundaries. No kissing before marriage!

Maybe you were more like me and made mistakes. And maybe you are a parent reading this and you know that your child is not staying pure. I hope this bit will give you hope, as you come alongside your child to pray for them and restore them back to the Lord.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that I had two serious boyfriend relationships before marriage. I didn’t have sexual intercourse with my boyfriends, but I did everything else. So I tell people that I struggled with sexual impurity to call it what it is.

Even if I was raised in a good home, I made the choice to go against God’s standard of purity by going “too close to the edge.” The fact that I was a victim of rape and sexual abuse probably made it easier for me to rationalize my choices but that wasn’t an excuse.

I remember my mom calling me long distance one evening while she was away on a trip, and she gently asked, “How are you and your boyfriend doing? I dreamt about you guys last night and you were doing something you weren’t supposed to.”

I knew what she was alluding to and I must have turned five shades of pale. God had spoken to her through a dream! Can you believe it?! I was so convicted and bothered. I admitted to my mom that my boyfriend and I were indeed doing something inappropriate. This wasn’t the only time I had to make a confession to my mom or my dad.

However, their emphasis was not on lecturing me, embarrassing me, or judging me. Were they hurt? Yes. Were they concerned? Yes. Did they have to set restrictions? Yes. But they did these things in a manner that was redemptive. There was grace and forgiveness in the context of an existing love relationship with me. This inspired me to please God because I knew that my parents wanted what was best for me. They had proven this for many years prior to me ever being in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Author Jim Burns said that as parents we need to convey to our kids that “God created sexuality, and in the light of marriage, He sees it as very good. Our children need to know that God wants the best for each of them in this area of their lives. He is not the great killjoy but rather the creator and sustainer of life.”

Unless our kids are convinced that we are for them, that we are on their side and want what is best for them, they won’t listen to the values we want them to internalize when it comes to their sexuality. So let’s start investing in our relationship with them from the very beginning so that the truths we pass on to them about safeguarding purity will sink deep and take root in their hearts. They might not make perfect choices (like me) but may their relationship with us and with the Lord, through the power of prayer, hook them back and get them back on track.

Here are some facts that tell us why sex is best reserved for marriage: (Source – Ray Short)

Fact 1 – Premarital sex tends to break up couples.
Fact 2 – Many men do not want to marry a woman who has had intercourse with someone else.
Fact 3 – Those who have premarital sex tend to have less happy marriages.
Fact 4 – Those who have premarital sex are more likely to have their marriage end in divorce.
Fact 5 – Persons and couples who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Fact 6 – Having premarital sex may fool you into marrying a person who is not right for you.
Fact 7 – Persons and couples who have premarital sex experience sexual satisfaction sooner after they are married. HOWEVER –
Fact 8 – They are likely to be less satisfied overall with their sex life during marriage.
Fact 9 – Poor premarital sexual habits can be carried over to spoil sex in marriage.

As I end this, I want to propose that committing to purity is a family thing. When Edric and I were a younger couple, we watched a bunch of cool TV series on certain evenings to relax and unwind. These shows had great plots but they also had scenes in them and values that blatantly celebrated unbiblical perspectives on sex. We would close our eyes through those parts or press fast forward to avoid watching the “unholy” stuff. But after awhile we were like, What are we doing? This is a waste of time and it is not honoring to the Lord.

We realized that if we can’t sit through programs like these with our kids because we don’t want their minds polluted, then why do we think our minds are exempted from being corrupted as well?

We are all called to holiness. Furthermore, it’s easier to encourage the entire family to pursue purity if we all use the same filtration standards. Here’s a great passage that gives us guidelines for what we should watch and listen to: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

There’s nothing inherently wrong with media. But the evil one uses these channels to influence and infiltrate our minds. Therefore we must be discriminating as a family about the kinds of shows, programs, music, and movies we entertain ourselves with. Everything that we take in shapes our values and perspectives. 

Psychology Today tells us that “Today, children are being sexualized earlier and earlier, in part because they are exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media earlier than ever…A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors as well. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.” (Psychology Today)

When our oldest son, Elijah, started using an IPad he purchased, he installed restrictions on it to protect himself from going on sites or accessing media that could be pornographic. I praise God that he was convicted to do this on his own, as a child. Now that he is entering the crazy hormonal phase of young adulthood, my prayer for him is that God will continue to keep him pure hearted. I pray that for all my kids.

Even if Edric and I try our best to raise our kids with healthy sexuality, it’s no guarantee that they will stay pure in heart and mind. However, I believe they have a better chance of doing so if we start teaching them young. As the Scriptures say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9‬ ‭

I really like what Paul said to his young disciple, Timothy: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know what your perspective on sexuality has been. Maybe you are a young parent, trying to figure out how to raise your kids right. Or maybe you have older kids who are interested in the opposite sex or already dating someone and you are worried about the choices they have made or will make. Or maybe you are a person who is struggling with gender identity or sexual promiscuity. Or you didn’t grow up in a home where you saw healthy gender roles modeled by a mother or father, or you experienced sexual abuse.

Whatever your life state may be, I want you to know that God has a plan for you, as the man or woman that he designed for you to be. Everything that you have been through He can redeem and make beautiful. If no one has ever valued or treasured you and if you don’t feel like you are not worth much because of your choices, you need to know that God sees you. He knows you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He loves you and He died for you because you are so precious to Him! He can purify you and me and restore whatever sexual brokenness we have gone through.  

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms‬ ‭51:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?


During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

Potty Training and Parenting

Finally, Catalina can go to bed at night without wearing diapers. She actually initiated this milestone on her own some days ago when she adamantly said, “I don’t want to wear diapers. Only panties.” This happened before she took her last pee of the evening, when she removed her pull-ups and chucked them into the trash can.

I was pleased with this display of independence. She stopped wearing diapers during the day at about 2.6 years old (later than my other four).

The approach was to mix in a good amount of positive pressure and training. We had to spend about two months teaching her how to use the toilet. Many mishaps occurred in the process! But then she got it! And I was able to save hundreds of pesos in diapers. Even if I put her diapers on at night, it was much cheaper than going through five or six diapers a day.

Now, she has declared herself liberated from night time diaper wearing. To keep from wetting the bed, we don’t give her anything to drink before she sleeps, and we make sure she pees before she is tucked in. After this, I will be training her how to use the potty on her own.

Every one of my kids reached this stage in different ways. It’s a comforting reminder that they get to their milestones eventually. Some take longer than others but they get there. One step at a time, that’s the key. Furthermore, I have to let my children bloom on their own, according to God’s time table.

Even if I am anxious to move them up the developmental ladder quuckly, I tell myself, RELAX. Whether it’s speaking, walking, sleeping on their own, eating on their own, potty-training, reading, writing, independent learning, athletic ability, the reality is that some things will not happen at the specific point in time that I want them to. I can do my best to create an environment that encourages my kids to grow and mature, but I also have to trust in God’s plan for them.

Trusting in God’s plan for them means I should avoid comparing my kids to each other and others. It also means appreciating my kids’ uniquenesses and enjoying where they are at. 

More importantly, it involves focusing on the right goals. My kids are not going to outsmart or outtalent every child out there. I think they are pretty amazing and special in their own way, just like all other children are. But parenting them is not a contest. I don’t have to prove anything through them and their skills…any skill they achieve or master. Neither should I feel guilt-ridden or wallow in discouragement when my best efforts at teaching them skills don’t produce the results I hope they will. 

Instead, I have to be FAITHFUL as a mom. I have to be present and intentional so I can help them discover their God-given limitations, strengths, personalities, and physical traits to accomplish His purposes. As I do so, I can relax, and leave the success part to God. He will define what that means for each of my kids. And His definition trumps all others’!


“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NASB

Letting Go

This is a new stage of parenting for me, parenting a young man, as my husband and I like to refer to our 13 year old son, Elijah. After he turned 13, it felt like parenting 101 for me all over again.

I don’t really know what I’m doing. It feels like navigating unchartered waters in a misty fog.

By God’s grace, Elijah has been a pleasant “teenager”…so far. This is possibly because he hasn’t actually gone through puberty yet. I’m expecting this to happen within 2016. He’s at the beginning stages of it. However, he hasn’t exactly shot up in height. His voice hasn’t cracked yet. And well, other things are pretty much the same.

As I anticipate the hormonal transformation he is going to go through, I’m preparing myself, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to “let go” of the mothering bit. He’s not a baby anymore. And as my father in law lovingly reminded me, I’ve got to stop babying him.

I don’t really think I “baby” any of my kids, but if packing Elijah’s bag for his two week trip to the Holy Land counts, then yeah, I guess I do. I matched his outfits and oriented him on everything that was in his suitcase. I stayed up until late the night before he left to prepare his backpack with essentials.

It sounds like a form of babying, but letting him go on a trip without Edric and me accompanying him seems like a big step in the opposite direction. This is the first time any of our children have flown to another country without us.

The first night, I looked at his empty bed and felt like crying. His brothers were most certainly crying. I saw them in the dark, sitting on their beds doing so. When I flicked the light switch on, there were tears in both their eyes. They missed Elijah. I gave them big hugs and tucked them into bed, trying to offer words of confort I also needed to hear.

It was my parents’ idea to treat Elijah to a trip to the Holy Land with them when he turned 13. This is their plan for each grand child for as long as they can. So, the good news is he’s with adults whom I trust. My sister and her husband are on the same tour, which is doubly reassuring.

However, it took me a few days before the separation anxiety subsided. I am finally able to relax. Elijah doesn’t have a phone with roaming capacity so we have to rely on spotty Internet connection to communicate through his Ipad. I’ve talked to him briefly during the week and he already sounded like a more mature version of himself.

He was riding on the bus with a woman beside him during our first conversation and I was like, “Who is that girl beside you?” Eventually, he told me it was a young lady whom he shared the bus ride with.

When my dad jokingly said, “Yeah, he’s been talking to lots of girls,” I was like, “What? Really? What girls, Elijah?”

Elijah interrupted me quickly by saying, “Mom, you know I’m not at that stage yet.”

Oh okay. Whew. I know that. He’s not interested in girls yet, not in the romantic way, at least. (I suppose this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Children stay children for longer. They aren’t influenced by the culture of school where people crush on one another early.)

The most challenging part for me about letting Elijah travel without us was getting over the worry. What if he gets lost? What if he gets abducted? What if he gets injured? I don’t think there is any mom out there who won’t be able to relate to my anxiety.

But I am trying to dwell on the positive aspects of this two-week separation. Elijah is making new friends; he is spending quality time with the Lord as he experiences the Bible come to life; he has to practice responsibility as he keeps track of his belongings; he has to mind his budget; and he is learning to look after himself. If climbing the tallest mountain in the Philippines with his dad was “Lessons on Manhood Part 1”, then this is “Lessons on Manhood Part 2.”

Yesterday, Elijah contacted us to show us the shofar he bought. It was a huge ram’s horn! And he told his dad that he got it for a great deal. I’m trying to picture Elijah bargaining with a Jew for this trumpet and I’m proud of him!

As for Edan, my second son, he has stepped into the “kuya” shoes. Today, I asked him to baby-sit his brother and sisters in the hotel room while Edric and I gave a three-hour seminar on homeschooling and parenting. I left my phone with him, but he didn’t have to SOS us at all. When I returned to pick them up the kids in the hotel room, they were entertained, busy, and having fun without us.

When food is left on the table, Edan is also our new garbage man. I usually ask Elijah to eat everyone’s leftovers but now it’s Edan’s turn. Somehow, this has increased Edan’s capacity to eat. He’s been eating a ton of food in the last week!

What about me? Elijah’s trip away is a reminder that God is the one who protects my children. I need to relax and trust Him. It’s not my control or my presence that keeps any of my kids safe. I do my part but their wellbeing is ultimately in God’s hands. So I don’t need to worry when I can’t keep an eye on them 24/7. God can do a much better job.

I am also learning not to be dependent on my kids for my sense of joy or purpose. The first day Elijah was away, I thought, Is this what it’s going to feel like when my children leave home one day? Ouch. It hurts!

I’ve invested so much time in my children’s lives because of homeschooling that I can’t imagine what it will be like when my kids go off to college or pursue careers that take them away from the Philippines. And eventually they may start their own families, too.

So I’m thankful for this foretaste of what it will be like to really let go. It’s allowing me to re-visit where my sense of identity lies. Yes, motherhood defines a big part of who I am, but my life can’t revolve around my children. They’ve been given to me for a season, to instruct, influence, minister to, and disciple. I’m certainly going to make the most of this time while their hearts are malleable and responsive to me (and Edric). But one day, they will have to stand on their own and make choices without mom and dad around. And I will have to deal with the void their absence in the home leaves behind and look forward to how God will use me in another season of my life.

If I’m to be fruitful when I’m an older woman…fruitful in the purposeful sense because I’m fulfilling God’s plan for my life…then I have to be anchored in the Lord. I am a follower of Jesus first before I am a mom.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine you are the branches; he who abides Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

And hey, no matter what, I will still be mom to my kids. Someday, my children may not need me the same way they need me now, but there will always be a big space in my heart reserved just for them and the door to it will remain open.

Singer and songwriter Mark Shultz wrote When You Come Home years ago which used to make Elijah tear as a younger child. He would tell me to stop the song because he couldn’t listen to it. It’s such a tender song. In the end, the mom in the story passes away but she reminds her son that she will be waiting for him in heaven. Elijah never liked to think of being separated from me when he was little. And now he is off on his own!

I haven’t listened to the song in a long time, but it makes sense to include it here as I ponder upon this idea of letting go. (I’ve been in a sentimental mood since Elijah left so you get another emotional song in this post!)

What’s my take home from this song? Let go as your children grow up and grow past needing you, but always keep your arms open.

When You Come Home

My first day of recess
They all laughed at me
When I fell off the swing set
And scraped up my knee

The nurse called my Momma
To say I’d be late,
And when she gave me the phone
I could hear Momma say
“I’m so sorry, son.
Oh I think you’re so brave.”

And she was smiling when she said:

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home

I waved good-bye through the window
As I boarded the plane,
My first job in Houston
Was waiting for me

I found a letter from Momma
Tucked in my coat
And as I flew down the runway
I smiled when she wrote:
I’ll miss you, son,
You’ll be so far away

But I’ll be waiting for the day

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong
And I will be here
When you come home

Well, I don’t think
She can hear you now,
The doctor told me
Your mother is fading,
It’s best that you leave

So I whispered,
I love you
And then turned away.
But I stopped at the door
When I heard Momma say,
I love you, son,
But they’re calling me away

Promise me before I go

When you come home,
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home,
When you come home.

It’s Time to Play!

“Many of our greatest thinkers locate their capacity for original and profound thought in their imaginative abilities, first developed through creative play in early childhood.” (Pittsburg Post Gazette, August 2004)

Interestingly, “Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.” (Scientific American)

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A lot of times we rob our children of the opportunity to play when we overschedule their lives or cram it full with academics and enrichment activities. A poll by HealthAmerica from 2006 revealed that out of 882 children, 41 percent between the ages of 9 and 13 felt stressed all of the time or most of the time, because they have too much to do. Of those same children surveyed, 78 percent wished they had more free time. (Ahchealthnews )

Although we may mean well as parents, we need to consider whether our children are getting sufficient time to enjoy the wonders of childhood. Do they get to play?

Play can be structured and unstructured. Structured play is defined by set goals and objectives determined by an adult. It is adult-directed. (For example, when I teach my child how to build a tower with blocks and instruct them which piece to put where.) In contrast, unstructured play has no specific goal or objective determined by an adult. It is child-directed. Give your child blocks and see what he or she does with them.

Both types of play are important. Structured play is beneficial when your aim is to teach your child new concepts, skills, and reinforce them (colors, shapes, numbers, letters, phonetic sounds, reading, etc.) But unstructured play is beneficial for the application and manipulation of those concepts and skills – to demonstrate and practice creativity…and, well, just enjoy being a kid!

Another area where we may short-change our children is when we buy them the wrong kinds of toys. Since our children were very little, my husband and I agreed that we would buy our kids “good toys,” and avoid battery-operated toys as much as possible. Some people still gift our kids with these sort of toys but we try not to purchase them ourselves.

“A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child,” says Joan Almon, director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood. “Beware of killjoy toys. Give children simple play materials such as logs and stones, cloths and ropes, and they will create worlds.”

“Play starts with a box, with the discovery of pots and pans. If everything has bells and whitles and does everything for them from the time a child is very young (his) own imagination is not going to be very stimulated,” says Stevanne Auerbach, a.k.a Dr. Toy and author of Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to raise a child with high PQ.

Some of examples of good toys include:

  • Empty boxes (shoe boxes, big boxes, etc.)
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Tissue paper
  • Fabric
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Sand or mud
  • Trees
  • Leaves
  • Puddles or water
  • Bugs
  • Rope or string
  • Dolls for girls
  • Dishes and tea sets
  • Blocks
  • Legos
  • Playdough or clay
  • Marbles
  • Magnets
  • Old clothes for dressing up
  • Paper, drawing materials, paint, etc.

My kids go crazy over things like empty boxes and string! This afternoon my girls were running around with sticks, and my older daughter said, “Look, it’s an airplane!”, as she made the stick fly through the air.

So much learning happens through play. It may not be as quantifiable as results on a test paper, but rest assured, children are picking up something valuable.

“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world. Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.” Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years.

When we play with our kids, or when children play with one another, their language skills are developed. They pick up vocabulary, learn how to express themselves in ways that others can understand, and decode the grammatical structure of the English language without even realizing it!

When children are given unstructured play-time, their creativity sores. They learn how to be imaginative, invent, solve problems, build, and entertain themselves without being dependent on others to tell them what to do or how to think. Even simple toys like building blocks enhances mathematical ability in children.

My kids were trying to figure out how to build a suspension bridge the other day. They had to think through the physics involved to make this bridge.

Activities like drawing, painting, stringing, folding, cutting, squeezing dough or clay and molding it are all beneficial for fine motor skills. And activities that involve running, jumping, climbing, kicking, and the like will build muscular strength and endurance which are necessary for more difficult tasks that require body coordination.

What’s our part in all of this as parents? How do we ensure that learning happens when our children play? The following elements must be present:

  • Children feel free to express themselves
  • Children’s opinions are valued
  • Children believe they are unconditionally loved and accepted
  • Children are allowed to fail and learn from their failures
  • Children are allowed to experiment and try new ideas
  • Children are encouraged to consider more than one solution to a problem
  • Discipline is firm but not punitive
  • Parents accept some mess
  • Parents appreciate what their children accomplish and achieve
  • Parents communicate confidence in their children’s abilities
  • Parents demonstrate their own creativity and flexibility
  • Children are exposed to storybooks and storytelling
  • Make-believe is encouraged
  • Children have regular contact with parents and other children (siblings and cousins count, too!)

I don’t know what your family culture is like, but I hope you will prioritize playtime. It’s a necessary and fundamental part of childhood, and it’s our responsibility as parents, to provide a home environment where play is valued and encouraged. It’s time for our kids to play!

Saying Goodbye to Seasons of Motherhood

I finally weaned Catalina two months ago. It was kind of a forced wean because Edric and I traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for seven days which left her no option but to take the bottle. But like all my other kids who breastfed for a long time, she resorted to milk in a cup instead.

When I came back, she still asked to nurse and I tried but there wasn’t any more milk. Of course I could have produced it again had I let her keep latching on. But at two and a half years old I also figured it was time to move on. She breastfed primarily for comfort, not for sustenance. 

Still, she made attempts so I would explain, “Mommy has no more milk.” This answer didn’t always satisfy her so I had to add, “Mommy can always hug you and hold you. I will always love you.”

  
I thought I accepted the weaning as the right thing to do until I broke down one Sunday afternoon. Catalina saw me and reacted, “Why? why?” And then she pretended to cry, maybe to emphathize with me or maybe to make fun of me. (Knowing her personality, it may have been the latter!)

It finally dawned on me that breastfeeding babies has come to an end. Sure, okay, technically, I can have more kids. But I may not, and apart from that, it’s dealing with the reality that Catalina is “growing up.” She isn’t a baby anymore. In fact, she told me she’s “a little lady” because that’s the term Edric uses to describe her. 

Sometimes, I want my little baby back! I miss breastfeeding her to sleep, being able to comfort her when she is scared, tired or needy, the physical bonding we share that is so tender and special, and how happy and satisfied she looks when she is nursing. (It’s always difficult for me to wean my babies.)

Older moms used to tell me things like, Cherish every moment with your babies, you will miss this. I would look at them while holding an infant in my arms or breastfeeding one, tired as heck, and their advice seemed distantly relevant to me. But now, from the vantage point of having nursed five babies, survived the sleepless nights, and moved past the feeling of being “tied-down” by the responsibilities of caring for infants, I look back and think…they were right. They were all right! It all came and went so quickly, so soon. And, sigh, I miss it all.

Those difficult seasons made me a mother. Those trying nights of waking up to comfort my babies allowed me to discover the amazing resilience we have as women. And those challenging moments of teaching my babies how to communicate, walk across a room, feed themselves, and learn other survival skills they would need as little humans made me believe that God gave moms a supernatural patience and grace to persevere and repeat ourselves a thousand times! 

Being a mother has been such an adventure, and it continues to be. I’ve come to accept that it’s always going to be hard to say goodbye to each season of motherhood because I am a fully invested mom. Whether it’s the first few months of caring for a newborn, breastfeeding through the infant stage and beyond, raising wiggly toddlers, homeschooling young children, or navigating the teen years (this is a recent one), there will be tearful passages and triumphant ones that make up the sweet song of motherhood. Like me, there’s no committed mom out there who will not feel the sorrow of leaving one stage and entering another.  

So I must move forward with gratitude, embracing the experiences that my growing children will live through with me. It may be goodbye to having babies but it’s also a big hello to exciting times ahead. 

For instance, I am learning to appreciate Catalina and love her in new ways. She sleeps in the girl’s room with Tiana but sometimes, during the wee hours of the morning she will sneak into our room, inch into a space beside me on the bed and quietly whisper, “Can you hug me, mommy?” 

When I am dead tired, I drape an arm over her body to make it seem like it’s a hug, but this doesn’t count for her. She will insist, “Can you face me?” Then she will press her cheek to mine and close her eyes. I will smell her soft skin and feel the warmth of it against mine. Soon after she will doze off peacefully and I will smile…partially because I can go back sleep, too, but more so because this is its own kind of special. Breastfeeding was wonderful but this is better. This is a new season to treasure.